Biodiversity in Britain's Planted Forests
Planted forests dominated by coniferous species such as Sitka spruce and Scots pine make up over
half of the 2.8 million ha of woodland in the UK. These forests have been viewed by some as having
little wildlife and even being inimical to nature conservation. However, others have suggested that
such views are unduly influenced by the visual character and youthfulness of the forests.
As plantations have matured and been restructured to form diverse mosaics, so perceptions of their
value for wildlife have shifted. Conservation and enhancement of biodiversity has become an
important objective of much forest and rural land management, necessitating new research. In 1995
the Forestry Commission set up a project to assess biodiversity in planted forests. This publication
brings together the findings of this project, demonstrates that many native species find the forest
conditions to their liking, and challenges the notion that plantations are ecological deserts, or
irrelevant for biodiversity. The scope for improvements in habitat quality, combined with their large
area, means that planted woodland can make a significant contribution to UK biodiversity in the
future as well as providing continued economic and social benefits.
The majority of papers in this publication were presented at the symposium ‘Assessing Biodiversity in
Britain’s Forests’, held in Harrogate in November 2000. The symposium brought together researchers,
managers and policy-makers, with two main aims:
• To disseminate the results of the Biodiversity Assessment Project, undertaken by Forest
• To stimulate debate relating to the future management of planted forests and the
identification of biodiversity indicators.
The publication is aimed at woodland managers, planners and policymakers concerned with the
maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity within managed forests, particularly at the stand and
habitat scales. Some of the chapters are based on more detailed papers in the scientific literature.
Where this is the case, full references are given. Further valuable source material is also referenced.
Participants in the symposium were encouraged to share their experiences, identify areas in which
further work was required, and highlight key issues, within the framework of four separate
workshops. The key points have been incorporated into the final chapter.
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